Lying is actually something that worries all parents, but it is actually a very normal part of a child’s development. Children lie a whole lot and here’s why they do it. At around the age of four or five, you’ll no doubt notice your child’s imagination really starts to fire up.
Creative and imaginary play becomes increasingly fantastical, and problem-solving abilities take on another dimension as they build on what they’ve learned about cause and effect.
Less charmingly, your child may also start to tell lies. At this age, children are still really only capable of the most straightforward of lies – to deny they’ve done something that might get them into trouble, for example. But as their richness of imagination grows, and they develop the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and understand that others have knowledge, beliefs and desires different from their own, more sophisticated lying starts.
Naturally, parents find this alarming, but it’s actually a normal part of development and is a good yardstick of your child’s cognitive development. That’s not to say we should encourage lying. Understand that children think lies solve problems, whether that’s to get them out of trouble or get the attention of their peers. The most common lies are usually based around trying to avoid being told off or to avoid embarrassment, or to boast and exaggerate.
However, more worrying lies are intentionally malicious lies, such as saying something nasty about another child, or selfish lies at the expense of another person such as blaming a broken glass on a sibling. Parents should try not to get too upset about it and focus instead on communicating to your child your tolerance levels on lying.The most common lies are usually based around trying to avoid being told off or to avoid embarrassment, or to boast and exaggerate.
Some parents are absolutely fine with little white lies and tell them themselves, whereas others won’t tolerate lying in any form. If you prefer a blanket no-lie policy, make sure you model that behaviour yourself. Don’t let your child catch you in a lie telling your neighbour you can’t pop round right now as you’re just about to go out when your child knows that’s not true, for instance.
Being honest is an important part of a parent’s role and it’s much better for a child if you help them to understand why they need to behave in a certain way rather than relying on scary lies to control their behaviour. It undermines your role as a parent and means they don’t see you setting limits, which is essential. Children really need parents to demonstrate warm and loving boundaries.
As difficult as it may be, try not to lie in front of your kids. If you do, don’t be too surprised if your child starts lying.